Minds We Meet—The AUGSA President

Lindsay McNena, BA, MC Student is the President of the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association.  Here we get to know one of our fabulous graduate councillors and, in fact, its wonderful president.

What brought you to AU?

In 2013 I graduated from AU with distinction, receiving my BA in Psychology and English.  I wanted to go on to graduate school so I could register as a psychologist, and after such a positive experience as an undergrad, I applied to the GCAP program for my Master of Counselling degree.  Through some friends I met I became involved with AUGSA; first as a faculty rep, then as VP External, and now as President.  Throughout my time with AUGSA I have always been involved with our Engagement committee, looking for ways to connect students and create a sense of community; we use social media, our newsletter, in person meet and greets, and virtual lunches among other ideas to give students multiple ways to be active members of AUGSA and AU.

What is the last book you read?

Skag Boys, by Irvine Welsh.  Although written in 2012, the book is a prequel to Welsh’s 1993 work, Trainspotting.  Both books are written in Scots/Scottish English, which was interesting to read.

What show do you think everyone should binge watch?

Psych, which is about Shawn Spencer, a psychic police consultant who isn’t actually psychic.  The show makes a ton of references (they have episodes that pay homage to Chinatown, Twin Peaks, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Harry Potter, American Idol, the cult movie Clue…), they have an amazing array of guest stars (Tim Curry, Cary Elwes, Ally Sheedy, John Cena…), and there’s great writing and acting.  You feel like you’re part of all the inside jokes and running gags that pop up, and the show’s often-used phrases soon pop up in your own conversations.  My text alert is actually Shawn saying one of these phrases.  There’s also a pineapple somewhere in every single episode.

Why did you choose to run for AUGSA council?

When I first ran for AUGSA council it was to fill an empty position as faculty rep for Health Disciplines; I knew a few people from my program who had been involved with AUGSA and had really positive feedback about their experiences.  During that year I really enjoyed all the different aspects of being on council, but wanted to do more.  I met the then-current VP External at a meet and greet before elections, and he encouraged me to run for an executive position.  So I ran for, and was elected as, VP External.  That year I learned so much and had the opportunity to engage in many, many different activities: advocating to MPs in Ottawa, attending consultations about post secondary mental health grants, and sitting on a variety of committees with both AU and AUGSA, to name a few.  Running for President in the recent election seemed like a natural step, and a chance for me to learn and experience even more while continuing to work for graduate student interests.  I’m looking forward to what this year brings!

What are your academic goals for 2018?

Start (and finish) my practicum placement, where I’ll be working with a school counsellor at a middle school.  I’m very excited for the opportunity to work in a school, and to be involved in all the different activities for developing and maintaining positive mental health and relationships with the youth.

Any plans for partnerships with AUSU?

AUGSA usually runs into AUSU reps throughout the year, such as on AU committees, government consultations, or conferences.  These opportunities provide a chance to touch base and see if there are any upcoming advocacy issues or other concerns that we can work on together.  We also have quarterly meetings with the executive members of both organizations, to stay informed of the general priorities each group is pursuing; we’re always open to ways for us to work with AUSU.

What will be the bigger changes, if any, that AUGSA members can expect in 2018/2019?

At this point in the year we’ve only had one executive team meeting and one council meeting, so it’s a little early to say yet.  We do have a research conference coming up from October 12-14, which gives graduate students a chance to present their research.  There’s also a provincial and federal election coming up some time soon, so we’ll be looking for ways to encourage students to be involved and vote.

If you could have a meal with someone from history, who would it be?

This is probably the hardest question for me.  Could I have soup with the 1967 Stanley Cup winning Leafs team, salad with Gord Downie, dinner with Winston Churchill, and dessert with Agatha Christie?

What is one thing you would like to complete personally in 2018?

One thing I would like to complete personally this year is my Five-Minute Journal, which I started on the first day of my term as president.  I thought the journal would provide a unique keepsake to remember my term as AUGSA president, while helping to focus on mindfulness and positivity during a busy year.  In counselling psychology, I’ve seen how journaling can be a useful tool for maintaining good mental health, so I’m hoping the project will help with the mental and emotional drain that can happen when I’m super busy.  The journal takes 5 minutes in the morning and evening to complete, but helps me to set goals, recognize things I can work on, and see the different successes I have each day, even if the day has been particularly long or difficult.

Since being elected, what are your hopes for the 2018-2020 term?

For the 2018-2019 term (we only have 1 year terms), I hope that our council can be successful in representing our constituents and building relationships with AU, while providing a strong graduate student voice and presence with the school, the provincial government, and the federal government.  I hope that new members of the executive team have term full of positive experiences and personal growth, while working towards the goals we set throughout the year and responding to any novel issues that pop up.  As president, I hope I can continue strongly advocating for the unique needs graduate students have and expanding on the skills and abilities I developed last year, while providing quality contributions, and leadership when necessary, to the committees, boards, and councils I am a part of.

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